CIA planes did not seek clearance for Shannon landings

Village 27 Oct 2005

Aircraft used by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the transfer of "terrorist" suspects did not seek authorisation from the Irish government for landings at Shannon airport. By Colin Murphy.

Two aircraft, identified by Village as having been used in specific cases where suspects were transferred to countries where they claimed to have subsequently been tortured, landed at Shannon on 15 occasions, according to the Department of Transport. They were registered as civilian aircraft, and made "technical" stops, to refuel, without informing or seeking authorisation from the Government.

Under Irish law, civilian aircraft are not required to seek authorisation for technical stops, unless they are carrying troops, weapons or munitions. All military aircraft must seek authorisation for landings.

One of the aircraft was registered to Premier Executive Transport Services, "a small US airline", according to the Department. This company exists only on paper; the company's named directors do not exist. The airplane was used by the CIA in the transfer of two Egyptian asylum seekers from Sweden to Egypt, where they were tortured, according to a Swedish parliamentary report and to Human Rights Watch. It landed in Ireland 13 times between 2000 and 2003, according to the Department. On at least one occasion, it landed at Shannon on return from an operation where a suspect was transferred, on this occasion from Pakistan to Morocco. The man in question, Binyam Mohammed, has alleged that he was tortured by the authorities in Morocco.

The Department of Transport said it had "not received any information regarding the purpose of these flights as the flights were of a technical nature".

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, stated in the Dáil on 6 October that the Government had "made clear to the US authorities that it would be illegal to transit prisoners... through Irish territory without the express permission of the Irish authorities". The US had "confirmed they have not done so and that they would not do so", he said. Ahern said these assurances had been sought and repeated on a number of occasions. "If a government of the stature of the US government which has such a connection with this country gives us an absolute assurance in this regard, we accept it", he said.

"The conditions of transit are the conditions which have been in place in regard to many conflicts, such as that in Kosovo...These facilities were only allowed on strict conditions, the same conditions as have pertained for 50 years."